IN SANTA MONICA!
I keep waiting, and anticipating in this column, prematurely, the full blown return of live music. For all those months I thought it would come in a tsunami, all venue doors finally safely thrown wide open to a music-starved audience and a flood of housebound, claustrophobic musicians, creativity and new works itching for release, elbowing each other to get on stage first.
Thanks to fanatic medieval-mindset anti vaxxers and other knucklehead science deniers, many of them witlessly following the lead of the former Ignoramus-in-Chief who cares not one whit for any other life but his own (go ahead — argue that one with me), we are now in a deadly, rapidly spreading epidemic of the unvaccinated. It’s so hard to comprehend and get used to, but here we are.
We well know that Trump made it “acceptable” to be racist, and misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic etc etc etc, but perhaps even more damaging, in the wider picture, was his promotion and elevation of sheer stupidity.
Bleach, anyone? Not only do folks now admit they get their “facts” from bloggers, right wing radio liars, some guy on YouTube and their conspiracy-consumed QAnon cousin, they are danged proud of their inside knowledge and will argue their beliefs-based-on-nothing loudly and publicly. Those secret facts, that almost no one else knows. Yes, that ridiculous behavior kills people, but it can also.
KILL THE MUSIC
Please God, no. We now, all of us, even the vaccinated, have to wear masks indoors, and even outdoors sometimes. The fabled acting company Theatricum Botanicum, where I’m going with friends for a world premier staging this Saturday of “The Last Best Town,” is up and running but we will have to wear masks while sitting in that beautiful outdoor amphitheater in the woods of Topanga Canyon.
And since I brought that up… I guess I must, for the umpteenth time, lament that Will Geer’s Theatrucum Botanicum, one of the very best acting ensembles I’ve ever seen, tackling each summer a handful of Shakespeare and other provocative, socially conscious, often cutting edge presentations, retains, after nearly 50 years, the regrettable distinction of being still one of LA’s “best kept secrets.” On a picnic recently with three friends, TB was mentioned and two said they had never been but always wanted to, and the other said she went maybe 20 years ago and loved it but somehow had never been back. Another sigh.
But that’s why I write this column, to let you know about the good stuff that may be missing your radar. We picnic pals will be occupying five seats on the benches in the amphitheater, after a lovely picnic dinner in the lovely woods of Topanga, all on the huge grounds of the Geer family property.
Don’t miss peeking at the very rustic, diminutive log cabin that was occupied by Woody Guthrie on his frequent visits there. Woody’s son Arlo, Pete Seeger, Della Reese, Burl Ives and many more performed there, when the McCarthy Black List kept Geer and many others from performing anywhere because of suspected “Communist sympathies.” (And now we are plagued by a new McCarthy.)
“THE LAST BEST SMALL TOWN”
By local playwright John Guerra is premiering this Saturday, extending through Nov. 6, and if you can get tickets, through their website — TB shows often sell out — they are only 5-15 bucks for kids, $15 for students, teachers, seniors or veterans, and $26 for adults, all general admission, upper tier. (There are no bad seats.)
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (through Nov. 7) and “Julius Caesar” (through Oct. 30) comprise their abbreviated COVID summer Shakespeare schedule.
EM THE MASTER
Do you really want to make people skeptical before they even come through the door, with an over-the-top name like that? She’s young, she’s British, but what could she be Master of?
Well — showmanship, songwriting, electric piano pounding, stage presence, singing, charisma, theatrics, energy, arranging, band leading, choreography — what else you want? She’s also an actress, activist, and recently on the New York Times bestseller list with a little ditty she co-authored with Lady Gaga.
I was going to tell you a lot about her but the death of Dusty Hill (below) required immediate attention. Here’s what you need to know for now:
She will be performing at Harvelle’s, downtown SM, every Tuesday for as long as they can keep her. I would go right away if I were you. Because you will want to go back, and bring friends, to show them how smart you are and your awesome taste in undiscovered talent. 9 p.m. Gotta be the best 10 bucks you ever spent.
R.I.P. DUSTY HILL (72)
As I write this. Quite a loss. When you are a power guitar trio, like ZZ Top, the bass player better hold up his end, and he did. No easy chore when the monster guitar slinger on your left is the great Billy Gibbons. A unique story in the annals of rock and roll, and that’s saying something.
How many classic songs did they create? You might say there was a similarity, but that’s the blues, brother. And Hill and his ZZ brothers did it electric rock style better than almost anyone, for decades. I was fortunate enough to see them a few times, and they always tore the roof off. While barely swaying onstage.
One tour though, in 1976, got pretty theatrical, and was so popular they extended it to 18 months, unheard of in those days. It was their “Worldwide Texas Tour,” on a mission to “bring Texas to the people,” with a 35-ton stage in the shape of the Lone Star State and a menagerie of Texas critters including a buffalo, a Longhorn steer, several venomous rattlesnakes, some tarantulas, and six vultures all called Oscar. God bless rock and roll.
When they were so known for their iconic hot rods and those long beards — once started, never looking back — of course that was only Hill and Gibbons, drolly enough, drummer Frank Beard never grew one — their music always transcended their quirky image.
A big Stetson hats off to you, Mr. Hill.
THE RETURN OF THE LEVITT PAVILION SUMMER CONCERTS — I am so thrilled this free, family friendly concert series in MacArthur Park is back. I have seen a lot of great shows through Levitt, from Fishbone to Loudon Wainwright III to bands I didn’t know before, ranging in style from cumbia to electronic to soul to Tejano to Mexican and Central American folkloric to hip-hop and punk and beyond.
They are wasting no time with their return, having four shows scheduled just this next week. I would recommend googling the artists for a little preview, but I will say that I have almost always been impressed by the programming for these shows, so much so that I have gone to them without knowing what to expect but trusting that it will be a good time, and it pretty much always is.
One show I will recommend is happening this Sunday, presented by the Little Ethiopia Cultural & Resource Center, featuring the legendary Rastafarian and reggae artist Ras Michael and his group The Sons & Daughters of Negus. Opening for Ras is King Malik, and Guade, neither of whom I was able to find out much about online, but am open to learning more this weekend! See you there?
Sunday 4 p.m., Levitt Pavilion, free.
(This event will also be livestreamed. Visit https://levittlosangeles.org/ for details)
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org